No. 2: Jingci Temple, Hangzhou, Zhejiang

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 12, 2011.)

Ji Gong (济公), seen standing here behind the Vairocana Buddha
(毗卢遮那佛). He managed to get kicked out of Lingyin Temple
(灵隐寺) and ended up spending time here at Jingci Temple
(净慈寺) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang (浙江, 杭州市).
August 18, 2009 - When I left the beautiful Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, I did a little bit of browsing in the shopping street outside the gate before hopping into a taxi for the short ride to Jingci Temple ("Temple of Pure Compassion").

On the way, I skirted the southern shores of West Lake, Hangzhou's most famous and prominent feature. You can barely go anywhere in the city without a view of the lake. Surrounded by pavilions, bridges, and quaint hotels, it's definitely the biggest tourist draw, and a beautiful sight.

Being a pilgrim, not a tourist, I couldn't indulge in a lakeside stroll. I jumped out of the cab on the lake's southern shore, bought my ticket (10rmb), and dashed into the temple.

It was quite a contrast to Lingyin Temple. Total cost there was 70rmb, and, typically, there was little there in the way of personal interaction.

At this modest little temple, however, I was greeted by several friendly old laymen at the gate; and when I entered the first hall, an elderly monk jumped up, offered me his chair, and started aiming an electric fan at me. (I guess I looked haggard after my "mountain climbing"). I refused the chair, but did enjoy the fan for a few moments before moving on.

There was a ceremony in progress in the main hall on this Tuesday afternoon, so I strolled around and saw the magnificent newly-cast bell. The original bell was the source of one of Hangzhou's "Ten Scenes of West Lake," called the "Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill."

On up the hill there were a couple more halls (most of the halls here date only from the 1980s), and a relic hall was being built at the top (inaccessible during my visit).

In the hall before it, however, I had a nice treat: the two kindly young monks tending the Three Western Sages offered me a fresh peach! "Pure Compassion" indeed.

After that, I visited a small courtyard next to the Main Hall, dedicated to Guanyin, outside of which a monk was reciting sutras. I've noticed that many "newly restored" temples keep these small, dilapidated courtyards and their unimpressive halls and statues; they are, as it were, the seed from which the shiny new plant has grown, and often have a more authentic "feel" than the more impressive constructions.

Finally entering the Main Hall after the ceremony, I found that the main figure was a stately Vairocana, "The Great Sun Buddha" who is my personal favorite.

The hall also had an unusually fine set of Eighteen Arhats in bronze. And behind the Vairocana, in the place usually occupied by Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, was instead a figure of the "Crazy Monk" named Ji Gong.

He's a popular folk figure. Also called Daoji, he's known for his uncontrolled behavior (like drinking wine and eating meat) while at the same time being a compassionate champion of those in need.

Though he became a monk at Lingyin Temple, his behavior got him kicked out, and he stayed at this temple when not wandering the country.

As I left the temple, I took a quick look at the Leifeng Pagoda across the way. Then off to the bus station for the ride back to Beilun.

After I finish my 142 temple quest, I'm looking forward to a return visit to the by-then-completed Jingci temple.

GPS Info:
  • 30.229450, 120.148997



Main Hall, Jingci Temple, Hangzhou
Vairocana Buddha on the main altar
Jigong behind the main Buddha
The Peach-Giving Monks of Jingci Temple
Monk reciting sutras near Guanyin Hall
Leifeng Pagoda by West Lake, seen from the bell tower of Jingci Temple

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